How a hybrid solar panel works

The photovoltaic solar cells become less efficient as they get hotter, a decline that may be important on hot, sunny days. In addition, photovoltaic solar energy is inefficient and some of the energy is “lost” in the surrounding environment. What solar photovoltaic energy needs is a partner capable of supplementing its strengths and compensating for its shortcomings. Fortunately, such a partner exists – solar thermal. Now it looks like the two are reuniting in what could be a happy marriage.

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By placing a solar thermal collector behind a solar photovoltaic (PV) panel , PV cells can be cooled. At the same time, the solar collector can harvest most of the energy that passes through the generator that would otherwise be wasted, recovering it for productive use.

These systems can generate four times the energy produced from a single area for only a 25% cost increase. Although costing more than a single unit of either type, a combined unit can be produced at a much more affordable price than two separate thermal and photovoltaic units.

What materials is the hybrid solar panel made of?

The photovoltaic thermal sensors can be constructed in the same manner as the solar thermal collectors, usually in a box with a glass lid, or may be directed more towards the design of solar panels, with less insulation and no glass cover.

The latter concept can be expected to have lower conversion efficiency than the former, but higher electrical efficiency, and it will be more sensitive to power variations in windy conditions.

In both cases, the photovoltaic solar element can be amorphous or crystalline silicon-based, conventional or thin-film, and consist of single, double or triple junction solar cells depending on the conversion efficiency / cost trade-offs.

Commercially, many solar companies have been fully engaged in meeting thermal and solar PV demand and improving their separate systems, while technically there have been issues such as maintaining the long-term stability of solar power. Photovoltaic solar elements when used with solar thermal collectors.

How do hybrid solar panels generate electricity?

The PV directly converts solar energy into electricity. They work on the principle of the photovoltaic effect. When some materials are exposed to light, they absorb photons and release free electrons. This phenomenon is called the photoelectric effect. The photovoltaic effect is a method of producing electricity with direct current based on the principle of the photoelectric effect.


Based on the principle of the photovoltaic effect, solar cells or photovoltaic cells are manufactured. They convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. But a single photovoltaic cell does not produce enough electricity. Therefore, a number of photovoltaic cells are mounted on a support frame and are electrically connected with each other to form a photovoltaic module or solar panel. Commonly available solar panels range from several hundred watts to a few kilowatts. They are available in different sizes and different price ranges. Solar panels or modules are designed to provide electrical energy at a certain voltage, but the current they produce is directly dependent on the incident light. Most of the time we need an AC power supply and therefore the solar power system also consists of an inverter .

We must highlight the shortfall of not cooling photovoltaic solar panels, pointing out that for every degree of increase above 25 ° C, electricity production decreases by up to half a percent. For example, a typical rooftop photovoltaic generator at 55–75 ° C would provide 15-25% less electricity. If the temperature were to rise to 80 ° C, which is quite possible in direct sunlight, a generator rated at 10 kW could provide just over 7 kW.

Using the hybrid solar solution to control solar PV temperature while harnessing “waste” heat productively can reduce PV solar recovery periods by a third to half. Furthermore, a combined system is likely to be aesthetically more attractive than a solar thermal system alone, being enhanced by “high-tech” solar PV overlay and leading to a more uniform roof array.

How do hybrid solar panels produce domestic hot water?

The collector transfers the captured energy to a circulating fluid, fluid or air which in turn brings it to a place where it can be stored or used, such as a hot water tank, a building space or on the ground for later recovery by a heat pump. In this scenario, the photovoltaic solar cells are cooled by contact with the solar thermal collector to a more optimal operating temperature, ideally around 25 ° C. By providing both thermal and electrical forms of energy, the marriage is successful to a solar cogeneration process.

The medium used to extract heat from the system thermal absorber and cool the photovoltaic solar panel can be a fluid, normally water or air. The water, the heat sink in solar thermal devices, is circulated through pipes arranged in a serpentine or coiled to have a maximum surface in contact with the absorbent plate with black surface to which they are intimately attached.

The extensions of these pipes pass either through a closed circuit in a hot water tank to heat sanitary water, or in the ground from where it can then be recovered by a geothermal heat pump. The circulation pump used to propel the water around the closed circuit can be powered by the solar photovoltaic element, with a back-up power supply if necessary.

If, on the other hand, air is used as the heat transfer medium / coolant, the air used to ventilate the solar PV generator can be transferred through a plenum and ducts to a building’s space heating system, or transmitted to a heat exchanger where the thermal energy is extracted and stored, for example, in night storage heaters or hot water.

To summarize

The hybrid solar panels are quite ingenious technical solution. It should be noted that in view of its advantages; combining electricity and hot water, it is relatively more expensive than other types of solar panels. It remains an interesting solution if you are looking to switch completely to green energy at home.

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